Lithium does not occur in free form in nature owing to its high reactivity. Lithium deposits (as a minor compound of almost all igneous rocks and also a component of the majority of natural brines) are found all over the world. Brines, pegmatites and sedimentary rocks account for 66%, 26% and 8%, respectively, of the world’s total lithium resources.
World lithium reserves by country, 2012
Global mine production of lithium minerals and brine grew at a stable pace between 2007 and 2012, and in 2012 it exceeded 664,720 tonnes. Meantime, the world mine production of lithium also followed an upward trend during the same period of time; in 2012, it reached 38,000 tonnes, representing a 6.8% YoY increase.
Chile and Australia are the leading manufacturers and exporters of lithium ore materials worldwide. The countries hold together approximately 34.2% of the world’s total supply. Meantime, Russia and China also possess substantial lithium ore resources, however, it is currently cheaper for these countries to import lithium ore material rather than mine their own reserves. The USA is ranked number one consumer of lithium and its compounds in the world.
Global mine production of lithium broken down by country, 2012
Global lithium production is poised for sustained growth in the years ahead. Lithium batteries are expected to be the largest contributor to the future growth in the global lithium market through 2017. Between 2013 and 2020, the overall lithium consumption will likely post 9.5% YoY growth. New market entrants are anticipated to supply around 25% of the total lithium production volume by 2020. In 2016, the global production of lithium minerals and brine is anticipated to climb to 920,600 tonnes; whilst the overall lithium production is forecast to reach 51,300 tonnes.
More information on the lithium market can be found in the report “Lithium: 2014 Market Review and Forecast”.